Gatwick Airport workers, who look after an estimated 670,000 passengers annually, many with disabilities, are being balloted for strike action in a row over a ‘massive inequality’ in pay.
Unite has served a strike ballot notice and will start sending ballot papers for strike action to its 254 members employed by logistics giant Wilson James at Gatwick on Monday, October 15. The ballot closes on October 29.
The dispute centres on a demand for a £1 an hour pay rise for the year starting April 1, 2018 to begin to bridge the gap with those airport staff pushing luggage trollies who earn significantly more than Wilson James staff. Those assisting disabled passengers are paid just £8.27 per hour.
Last month, Wilson James assisted more than 56,000 passengers through the airport, which Unite calculates as a total of an estimated 670,000 a year.
Unite regional officer Jamie Major said, “Our members take their responsibilities to the hundreds of thousands passengers they care for during their time at Gatwick very seriously – however, this blatant pay inequality can’t continue any longer.
“We calculate that our members look after 670,000 assisted passengers a year, many with disabilities, which is a big responsibility and should be valued appropriately by the employer.
“There is no rhyme nor reason why pushing luggage is valued more than helping people – perhaps, it’s because airlines can charge more for heavy luggage to increase profits.
“It remains a mystery to our members. Gatwick Airport needs to get its priorities right, otherwise it will suffer huge reputational damage,” Major warned.
“The current pay of £8.27 an hour for our members is less than the voluntary UK living wage which is currently £8.75 outside London – and the south east is one of the most expensive places to live in the country.
“If our members vote for strike action, this will adversely affect the Gatwick ‘experience’ for disabled travellers in the run-up to the peak Christmas holiday season.
“We wish to avoid any distress to disabled passengers and that’s why we are asking Wilson James management to get around the table to negotiate constructively to resolve this dispute.”